Praxis Metrics data ownership

The importance of data ownership

In this episode of the Data Rich show, AJ is joined by Kevin Brkal the president and founder of KNB Online Inc.

We talk through attribution models, ad spend, and how to protect your data through data ownership.

Check out our insights and conversation below:

Data- Amazing, but creepy

Kevin’s agency focuses on Facebook ads. The reason that they chose this as their platform is because of the Facebook audience network. Lots of different sites use the Facebook Ads network to sell ad space on their websites.

When it comes to the mobile web, any apps that collect real time data most likely use or sell that data. They can track your location and establish geo-fencing and geo-targeting to hyper target you as a consumer. It often freaks people out when they start to see ads for things that they think shouldn’t have a digital trail, but any number of apps on your phone could theoretically track that information on you.

As people get more and more creeped out by the things about them that are tracked, we see platforms cracking down on the things that can be tracked. The question that we naturally want to answer is how will this affect marketing.

Find a strategy that works for you

Before the internet, marketers still reached their target market. While we may not have access to as much information as before, you can still get mountains of data.

While browsers crack down on the data that marketers can access, no one is looking at location data being shared. Search engines also still sell randomized user data as well, so marketers shouldn’t panic just yet.

The primary victim of the data crackdown

Attribution modeling will get more difficult as browsers cut down on the amount of data that they share. This leaves marketers to rely more heavily on last-click attribution, or just saturate their markets with ads. The business who can afford to spend the most to acquire their customers always wins, but this may become even more important in the future.

Attribution is already a mess, but as browsers continue to limit the amount of data that you can gather on customers, it will only get worse. This change increases the confusion that ecommerce companies will have to deal with. Businesses just need to just gather as much data as possible to make an informed decision.

The solution:

As we talked about previously, the best way to combat the confusion is to gather as much data as possible.

One of the best way to increase your data is to leverage UTMs. UTMs are free tools that everyone can use to increase the amount of data that you can gather. They allow you to create custom tracking parameters to gain better insights into your customers.

From there, you need to track your data in as many sources as possible. Facebook Pixels, Google Analytics, the back end of your ecommerce store; all of them track data differently. But if you have all of that data tracked, then on the back end a data company can extract the data and figure out the truth for you.

Another thing that you can do is alter the attribution models that you use in your tracking systems. Facebook defaults to a 28-day click window, and a 1-day view-through window. You can alter this window to better match your preferred attribution modeling.

Attribution modeling

In today’s marketing landscape, there is no limit to the number of touch points that you can have with your customer. The trouble that most businesses run into is deciding how they want to attribute back to the touch points across the journey.

Google Analytics defaults to a last-click attribution model. This means that the thing that drove them to your site the time that they converted gets complete credit for the sale. Facebook has an attribution window, in the which it claims full credit if a sale occurs in that window. The trick that marketers need to use is a blended model.

Adidas recently stopped their branding campaigns in favor of campaigns that seemed to be driving their sales, based off last click attribution models. They quickly discovered that the branding campaigns that they were running warmed their customers enough to click on the direct response campaign and purchase. Based off the data that they looked at, they thought that they made the right choice to cut the branding campaigns.

Data ownership

The most important thing that companies need to do when working with an agency is make sure that you’re owning your data. Whatever agency you work with, you need to make sure that they create the ads under your account and that they track with your pixel. The reason for this is that then you own that data. If you allow them to run the ads under their umbrella or with their pixel, then they own the data. In the event of a dissolution of the partnership, they could sell that data to your competitors.

Regardless of who you work with, it’s extremely important to own your data. Many ecommerce companies have started to move away from Amazon, because Amazon owns all of the data on its platform. As Kevin correctly pointed out, Amazon can take the data that they gather on your customers, and the things that they purchase from you. From there, they can recreate your product under their umbrella and force you out of your own market. It wouldn’t be the first time that they did.

Businesses have finally begun to recognize the value of data, as data has just surpassed oil as the most valuable resource on the planet. Businesses have begun to recognize the value of owning their data from top to bottom.

Take action from your data

Once you own your data, the next important thing to do is take action from it.

In order to know what actions to take, you need to know what your primary objective is. If you’re an ecommerce company, you likely want to increase sales. B2B companies likely want to increase leads. The important metrics that everyone should track are the cost per acquisition (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL). From there you want to calculate your return on ad spend (ROAS). If you’re looking at generating leads, it’s important to know how much it costs for you to turn a lead into a customer, or your conversion rates from leads to customers. Once you know that, you can find the lifetime value of those customers (LTV). If you have your LTV and your conversion rates, then you can reverse engineer your allowable CPL.

Don’t take too quick of action though

With all data, it’s important to find as many sources of validation as you can. In this hyper-connected world, it’s unfortunately easy to have skewed data; as this commercial points out:

Many analytics systems fail to recognize refreshes on thank you pages, which can dramatically skew your data. At Praxis, we have found that the best way to stop this is by creating a first party cookie that loads into the user’s browser the first time that they visit the thank you page. From there, you can update your tags to only fire in the event that the cookie is not present in the browser. Obviously, this still isn’t a perfect solution to the problem, but it can reduce the negative effects of over-attribution.

The most important metrics

Kevin has found ROAS to be the most important KPI in his business. Anyone who runs ads obviously wants to turn a profit on those ads, so it is very important to make sure that you track your ROAS.

Regardless of the metrics that you measure, the most important thing that you can do with data is validate. Track everything through multiple systems, don’t put your trust in any one. At the end of the day, these platforms want you to spend more money with them, so they will skew the data in their favor.

Data can be overwhelming at first, but it is your friend. Data will help your business scale and grow faster than anything else. AJ pointed out that you need a relationship with your data. The more time you spend with your data, the more in sync you can get with it. The better attuned you are to shifts in the data, the faster you can react to sudden changes or opportunities.

If you need help with Facebook advertising, Kevin is a great resource and can be reached at kevinbrkal.com

Praxis Metrics- Major data privacy changes- What you need to know

Major data privacy changes- What you need to know

The data landscape rapidly changes and shifts, but a flurry of recent announcements will shaken the core of how we measure and track customers.

What is happening?

Basically, until now we’ve been living in the wild west of data, but after a wave of data scandals a new sheriff has come to town. And this sheriff is changing all of the rules. The new priority for data is privacy first, marketers second. These new rules are coming through legislation, and the gods of the internet. We’ll explore what’s happening in both groups, and what happens next.

Legislation

It all started with GDPR, but now consumer data legislation is popping up around the globe. In the US, the California Consumer Privacy Act just officially passed (and will go into effect in 2020); meanwhile, similar regulations are developing in Brazil and India as well.

What do these laws entail?

Praxis Metrics- GDPR

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)-

GDPR is a law passed by the EU in 2016, and began enforcement in 2018. The stated goals of the law are to: harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy, and reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy. It does this by levying heavy fines against any business that is found in violation of the regulations. This applies to all companies processing the personal data of data subjects residing in the Union, regardless of the company’s location.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)-

The CCPA will allow consumers to force companies to tell them what personal information they have collected. It also lets consumers force companies to delete that data or to forbid them from sharing it with third parties. This law aims to target larger businesses, and only applies to businesses that earn more than $25 million in gross revenue, businesses with data on more than 50,000 consumers, or firms that make more than 50% of their revenue selling consumer data (I.E. data brokers).

While this law only applies to customers who live in the state of California, 17 other states are currently exploring similar legislation. It’s likely that most companies will just adopt these practices across the board.

Corporate regulation

Apple

Praxis Metrics- Safari Privacy Update

Apple has changed how it handles personal data, with it’s ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) framework in Safari. Third-party JavaScript cookie lifespans are now capped at seven days on all Safari browsers. This new, limited lifespan breaks traditional remarketing efforts and attribution models.

Both Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics use a default 30-day conversion window, allowing you to see the impact of every touch that impacted a conversion in that time frame. Those attribution models on Safari browsers will now only collect data on the last seven days prior to conversion, deleting any data collected before that point.

For remarketing, marketers now only have seven days to programmatically target Safari visitors. After that, their data will be deleted, along with the ability to retarget them.

Other effects from this change include: cross-device visitor tracking becoming unreliable, and a dramatic uptick in unique visitor counts. Visitors who span multiple devices and have a buying journey more than seven days will look like new visitors when they finally return, skewing the data. Additionally, since they now look like new visitors every seven days, new visitor counts will skyrocket.

Praxis Metrics- Firefox Privacy Regulations

Mozilla

Mozilla rolled out similar features to its popular internet browser, Firefox, earlier this year. They recently rolled out an “Enhanced Tracking Protection” feature, which blocks all third-party cookies by default. They also began blocking over 2,500 tracking domains, many of which control multiple cookies, and plan to “update and improve this list over time”.

Praxis Metrics- Chrome Privacy Update

Google

Chrome will add a browser extension that will showcase the names of the AdTech providers on each page and the personalization factors associated with each cookie. They also plan to provide user-level cookie control for third-party cookies.

What can we do?

First party cookies

Moving from third-party tracking cookies to first-party cookies will help protect against these updates and changes.

Most of the changes implemented by the tech companies target third-party cookies, but none of them target first-party cookies yet. This allows you to continue tracking your customer journey without interference.

This change also provides a number of fringe benefits, including: ownership of the data, reduced likelihood of blocking, and better storage and utilization opportunities.

Owning your data insulates you from changes or updates to any future terms and conditions. It also allows you to store the data indefinitely.

In order to implement this, you’ll need to develop the cookies and have a data-warehouse to store the information collected.

It should be noted with this solution that since you own the data, you assume 100% responsibility for it. This includes compliance with the privacy laws previously discussed, as well as the protection of the data.

Pixels

Tracking pixels have managed to avoid much scrutiny yet, and therefore they have escaped the proverbial regulatory hammer so far.

Pixels transmit their data directly to a server, rather than storing data in the browser. This makes the pixel extremely useful, as the user cannot delete the data by clearing their cache.

As regulation ramps up, we predict that most tracking will transition from cookies to pixels, and the data produced by these pixels will move to large data-warehouses for storage. Similar to a first-party cookie, the data gathered from pixels will become the responsibility of the pixel owner.

What comes next?

It is clear that the old way of collecting data is officially dead. Privacy and consumer protections are here to stay.

The solutions that we presented here only serve to fix the issues created by these updates to browsers, they will not help avoid any of the new legal regulations. The internet is entering a new age, and every company will have to grow and adapt to this new ecosystem.

If you’re freaked out by all of the changes hitting the data landscape, we can help. Book your complimentary data strategy session with a Praxis Metrics data expert who can walk you through these changes.

Praxis Metrics- How to win in the attribution war

How to win in the attribution war

One plus one equals one and a half?

One of the most frustrating aspects of marketing right now is over-attribution when comparing Facebook reports to Google reports.

This occurs when you log into Facebook and it tells you it earned you $100,000 in a period, then Google says it earned you $100,000 in that same period, but you only received $125,000 worth of orders during that same time period.

This, unfortunately, is the new norm in the attribution war. Both Facebook and Google want your advertising money to go to them, so when it comes to tracking and reporting, there are a few things you have to understand:

  • Even though the two platforms integrate with each other, each is entirely separate. They have different goals, definitions, standards, and abilities for tracking.
  • Each platform only owns their own data. That means, when you go into the reporting aspects of Google Ads or Facebook, you will have mathematically biased information. Each platform only sees one variable (their ads) as an impact on your sales. However, there are always multiple variables involved—multi-channel marketing, public relations, organic posts… even the weather and political climate can impact your sales.

So, when you log in and see varying information, they’re not trying to lie, they’re just presenting their side of the story.

Everyone knows that there are three sides to any story. Each person has their version, and then there’s the truth, which is somewhere in the middle. So, when it comes to Facebook and Google reporting, neither is lying, but also neither is showing you the entire picture because they both are inherently biased. Facebook, for example, counts any conversion that has seen an ad on their platform and then converts as a “view-through” conversion; and Google uses last-click attribution by default in their reporting because that favors them.

Then how do I get data that I can trust?

There are two steps to get accurate reporting on your marketing efforts in your systems.

#1: Tracking

Get as much information as possible. Information is simply multiple points of data brought together to allow you to see patterns and gain answers to questions, like:

  • How much overlap do we have in reporting?
  • Are there clients that have been exposed to multiple marketing efforts?
    • If so, are we tying together their customer journey with accurate tracking efforts?
  • What are all the possible impacts on our sales?
    • How have they impacted sales before?
  • Are there correlations?

How are you going to answer these questions to get the insights you desire? You must have the data in order to be able to analyze the data to get insight.

That means, tracking is the first and primary component of accuracy in your reporting:

Are you tracking your client’s journey?

As we discussed earlier, Google uses last-touch attribution to assign credit to conversions. This slants credit towards Google, as by the end of a customer’s journey they tend to be aware of your brand, and therefore more likely to search for your name and click on a search ad or organic search result.

Google Analytics has many attribution models that you can try out to see which one works best for you. From position based (Which assigns 40% of the conversion value to the first and last touch, and then distributes the remaining 20% across all other touch points) to time decay (which assigns credit based off how close to the conversion date it was), it’s important to make a conscious choice of which attribution model you want to use. Each attribution model has its pro’s and con’s, but by staying aware of how the model affects your reporting, you can reduce bias in your reports.

Are you using pixels?

Tracking pixels have exploded in popularity. Many popular advertising platforms now use tracking pixels in order to track conversions and user interactions with the ads. Pixels provide amazing reporting because you can install them almost anywhere, from emails to landing pages, and, as of now, they can’t be disabled by a browser.

Pixels can help you gain greater understanding over how users interact with your advertisements and your website. Providing granular data about user’s behavior based off the platforms that they visit your site from.

Do you have unique identifiers for your clients that allow you to see their customer journey?

Specifically, you need a way to assign a user-id to your clients so that you can track their behaviors across devices. If you don’t have this set up, then when a user changes devices, you will lose all of the data from their initial visit. This can lead to incomplete customer journey’s and skew your attribution data.

Do you have organized UTMs setup?

The very best solution for the attribution problem is to utilize UTMs in all of your marketing efforts. UTMs allow you to tell Google Analytics exactly how you would like to categorize your traffic. Every external link that directs to your site should have UTM parameters appended to them in order to help assign credit to the proper source.  You can even add in campaign data in order to track which of your campaigns drives the best traffic to your site.

UTMs can be one of the most powerful tools available to marketers, or they can be their downfall. UTMs need to be standardized and utilized consistently, or they will make the data even more convoluted and confusing. You need to implement standardized rules for your UTM usage across the organization in order to make sure that your data remains as accurate and clean as possible.

If you don’t already have these things in place, that is your top priority.

By organizing your tracking efforts, you can start gathering the data you will need in the future. If you need help with your tracking, visit the Praxis Metrics – Google Analytics Audit service page to read about how we can help you get your tracking in order.

#2: Reporting

Once you have tracking in place, you can typically manually create Excel reports that give you a much more accurate depiction of your marketing efforts (including lift effects and other variables). However, over time, that becomes tedious and time consuming and allows for too much human error.

The next logical step is to automate via ETL (extracting, transforming, and loading the information from these systems into a singular place) and then to visualize the combined, clean data with a dashboard.

This enables you to eliminate wasted time, effort, and give you insights in a quick and digestible manner. This process can be very intense and require the help of a data scientist.

Fortunately, we specialize in exactly this type of process and can help you revolutionize your data reporting. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with ETL and visualization, visit us here.

Bonus #3: Democratize your data

This one may seem out of the blue, but it can change the way that your entire organization interacts with data.

Democratizing data means providing access to data to everyone in your company. Not just information that pertains to their specific corner of the business, but the business as a whole. We have clients who have walls of TVs dedicated to displaying their data for the entire company. Everyone from entry-level employees to C-suite officers has access to the same data.

You may be asking yourself, “How on earth would that help my business?” Everyone has different backgrounds and experience, so when one person looks at a metric they will see one thing and come up with an action item based off their experience; but if you bring in another set of eyes, that person may see something totally different and come to a different conclusion. Democratizing data and making it accessible to more people will lead to greater insights and more options for ways to proceed.

Accountants can be creative, and marketing people can help solve operational issues. Democratizing your data can help you gain a myriad of insights and give you an edge over your competition.

You have tons of data; but data alone will not grow your business. It’s the insights from the data that will inform your team on how to grow. Companies that focus on causation will scale. Those that don’t, will fail.